It's the start of a new gardening year and we are so excited! It might be cold and frosty outside, but there's still a lot going on in the garden. Now is the time to set yourself up for success so read on to find out how!
Plan Your Garden
It's really worth taking the time to plan out your garden - it will make life much easier later in the season and help to have the best harvest ever! You can plan using paper, but this free software is a great way to easily organise your growing space. Before you start planning, start observing. Look at where frost collects in your garden, look also for shady spots in the low winter sun and take these into account in your planting plans. Trees which don't have leaves in winter will be in full leaf in summer, so factor the shade cast by these in too. Check which parts of your garden are dry, and which are water logged.
Try to think back as well - what succeeded where last year? And what didn't?
Remember to plan for rotation of different plants types too e.g. brassicas, tomatoes, potatoes to minimise disease and pests.
2. Top up your beds
You might notice that the soil level in your beds is lower than last year. This may be for a number of reasons such as nutrient loss to plants, erosion, further composting etc. Now is the perfect time to get them in shape by topping them up with peat-free nutrient-rich certified organic compost. This is even more important if you're using the no dig method.
3. Feed the soil
A great garden starts with great soil! One of the most effective ways to feed it is by adding certified organic horse manure. If you have a free source of well rotted horse manure nearby you can use that - a word of caution however to make sure the horse hasn't been consuming chemicals or chemically treated food which could make its way into your garden. You could also make nettle tea, comfrey tea or worm casting tea to add in.
Now that your soil is ready, make sure it's not bare! Uncovered soil loses important nutrients, is vulnerable to erosion and contributes to climate change through carbon loss. You can use leaves, bark, untreated straw, hay or rushes to add a layer of mulch to your beds. If you don't have easy access to these, certified organic horse manure is another great mulch.
5. Organise your seed collection
The demand for organic seeds is rising each year, and production is struggling to keep up. Once you know what you plan to grow, it's a good idea to go through any seed packets left over from last year and do a little inventory of what you have, checking this against what you would like to grow. Then get your order in - its a great feeling to have your seeds secure in the house ready for the coming season, and be one step closer to sowing! Some seeds in Ireland are sown as early as February so don't leave it too late to order!
6. Feed your fruit trees & fruit bushes
Large established fruit trees and bushes should be fed now with a good plant food or manure. Applying it now gives the food plenty of time to dissolve and be carried down to the roots, before growth starts in March.
7. Order seed potatoes
It's almost time to start growing potatoes! Order as early as possible to avoid disappointment. This is especially important for 2021, as Brexit means organic seed potatoes are difficult to source and once they sell out, that's it for the year!
If you've managed to do all that and you have energy left - make fancy plant labels!